The Elite


They're Global Citizens. They're Hugely Rich. And They Pull the Strings.
We didn’t elect them.
We can’t throw them out.
And they’re getting more powerful every day.

Call them the superclass.

By David Rothkopf
Washington Post Outlook, 2008-05-04

Financier Starts Sentence in Prostitution Case
New York Times, 2008-07-01

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

It has been a long, strange journey from Coney Island,
where Mr. Epstein grew up in middle-class surroundings.
He taught briefly at Dalton, the Manhattan private school,
and then joined Bear Stearns, becoming a derivatives specialist.
He struck out on his own in the 1980s.

His business is something of a mystery.
He says he manages money for billionaires,
but the only client he is willing to disclose is Leslie H. Wexner,
the founder of Limited Brands.

As Mr. Epstein explains it,
he provides a specialized form of superelite financial advice.
He counsels people on everything from taxes and trusts
to prenuptial agreements and paternity suits,
and even provides interior decorating tips for private jets.
Industry sources say he charges flat annual fees
ranging from $25 million to more than $100 million.


The Tea Party Teens
New York Times Op-Ed, 2010-01-05

[This is the famous (or infamous) column
in which Times op-ed columnist David Brooks
describes the views of what he calls “the educated class”:]

Every single idea associated with the educated class
has grown more unpopular over the past year.

The educated class believes in global warming,
so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise.
The educated class supports abortion rights,
so public opinion is shifting against them.
The educated class supports gun control,
so opposition to gun control is mounting.

The story is the same in foreign affairs.
The educated class is internationalist,
so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high,
according to a Pew Research Center survey.
The educated class believes in multilateral action,
so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way”
has risen sharply.

[Evidently, this Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude graduate
of a USN&WR top-20 national university
is not a member of Mr. Brooks’s “educated class.”

Note, by the way,
the rather bizarre cause-and-effect relation suggested by Brooks.
Brooks writes:
“The educated class believes in X,
so the tide of public opinion is swinging against X.”
This is delusional.
The reason members of the public oppose
the various positions attributed by Brooks to the educated class
is not to spite that class,
but because of opposition to those positions based on their merits.

This illustrates a very characteristic attitude of the class to which Brooks belongs:
Misattributing the motives of opposition to the preferred beliefs of that class.

Let someone oppose America’s unconditional support for Israel,
and the person is described as “an anti-Semite.”
Let someone oppose unlimited abortion,
and the person is a misogynist or sexist
(ignoring the fact that many abortion opponents are women).
Let someone suggest that the principal cause for
the various social, economic, and educational gaps between blacks and whites
is due to real differences in behavior
and that person is described as a racist, rather than a realist.]

The Power Elite
New York Times Op-Ed, 2010-02-19

A primer on political reality
By Michael Gerson
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2010-02-19
(also available at townhall.com)

The left has a political interest in defining
the broad backlash against expanded government
as identical to
the worst elements of the Tea Party movement --
birthers and Birchers,
militias and nativists,
racists and conspiracy theorists,
acolytes of Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo and Lyndon LaRouche.

This characterization fits a predisposition of some on the left
to dismiss many of their fellow citizens as dangerous rubes.
It does not fit the 60 percent of New Jersey independents,
the 66 percent of Virginia independents and
the 73 percent of Massachusetts independents
who voted for Republicans in recent elections.
It does not fit Palinism, which, in spite of populist excesses,
usually swims in the conservative mainstream.
It does not even fit the polling of Tea Party activists and sympathizers,
who report a fairly typical range of conservative views.
The Tea Party movement, on the whole,
seems to be an intensification of conservative activism,
not the triumph of the paranoid style of politics.

But the birthers and Birchers, militias and nativists,
racists and conspiracy theorists
do exist.
Some, having waited decades in deserved obscurity,
hope to ride a populist movement like remoras.
But there are others, new to political engagement,
who have found paranoia and anger intoxicating.
They watch Glenn Beck rail against the omnipresent threat of Saul Alinsky,
read Ayn Rand’s elevation of egotism and contempt for the weak,
listen to Ron Paul attacking the Federal Reserve cabal,
and suddenly their resentments become ordered into a theory.
Such theories, in politics, can act like a drug,
causing addiction, euphoria and psychedelic departures from reality.

At any time of social disorientation, conspiracy theories have an appeal.
They provide a narrative for an apparently random world.
They promise that one key can unlock every door.

And these theories contribute to social division.
Opponents are not just wrong; they are secretive, ruthless and demonic.
They want to
overturn the Constitution,
establish a police state,
cede American sovereignty to a new world order,
fight wars for the sake of Israel,
carve out a nation of Aztlan in the American Southwest.

The argument of “us against them”
is a temptation across the ideological spectrum.
But it is intensified by Gnostic insights that pit
the children of light against the children of darkness.

Eventually, these theories require repudiation
or else they can taint a political movement --
like a little red dye turns a container of water pink.
This is precisely what William F. Buckley did in the 1950s and ‘60s,
repudiating Rand and Robert Welch of the John Birch Society,
thereby creating a legitimate conservatism
that could elect candidates such as Ronald Reagan.

[For a different, much more positive view of the John Birch Society and Robert Welch,
and Buckley’s actions with regard to it,
see the 2010-02-24 column by Justin Raimondo,
describing the reaction of the neocons to Ron Paul’s straw poll win at CPAC-2010.]

A similar effort will be required today
of conservative political and intellectual leaders.
It will not be easy.
Sometimes it takes courage to stand before a large crowd
and proclaim that two plus two equals four.

A short primer in political reality should cover several topics.
The “revolution” we are seeing is a metaphor.
This is not 1776,
in which the avenues of representation were blocked by a distant power.
Those who take the revolutionary metaphor too literally
are not engaged in politics, they are engaged in sedition.
The Obama administration proposes to expand government;
it is not preparing to overthrow the government.
At this point, it does not even seem competent enough to engage in conspiracy.
The Federal Reserve, by the way,
just helped to prevent a depression by increasing the money supply.
It deserves a little thanks.

[Note how Gerson totally ignores the role
the Fed, and Alan Greenapan in particular, had
in causing the financial crisis,
by their refusal to take away the punch bowl
when the housing market was obviously reaching unsustainable levels,
and refusal to stop predatory lending, despite the fact that
that was in their charter, in their power, and they had
reliable and irrefutable reports coming to them about such predatory lending.]

The reform of Social Security and Medicare is a fiscal necessity;
the abolition of Social Security and Medicare would be an act of cruelty.
So America prior to the establishment of Medicare in 1965 was a cruel nation?]

Immigrants are not a bacillus; they are a source of values and vitality.
[A straw man.
Nobody says they are a bacillus.
What is desired by true conservatives, which Mr. Gerson certainly is not,
is the preservation of the historic character of the American population.]

And if they are not a source of future Republican votes,
conservatives will be voted into obscurity.

Every political movement is threatened by the impatient and irresponsible.
William Lloyd Garrison called for the secession of the North
to avoid the contaminating evil of slavery,
while Lincoln worked to preserve the union.
Malcolm X initially found the American tradition fundamentally corrupt,
while the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
found vast resources of reform within that tradition.
The heroes of America are heroes of unity.

Our political system is designed for vigorous disagreement.
It is not designed for irreconcilable contempt.
Such contempt loosens the ties of citizenship
and undermines the idea of patriotism.
“How can we love our country,” asked Ronald Reagan,
“and not love our countrymen?”

[It seems to me that
the person clearly exhibiting “irreconcilable contempt”
is Mr. Gerson, right in this column
by his descriptions of people whose opinions he finds so abhorrent,
for example, in such descriptions as
“the worst elements of the Tea Party movement”,
being prone to
“addiction, euphoria and psychedelic departures from reality”,
and “engaged in sedition”.
Frankly, only a rube could take Gerson’s column as anything but
a massive exercise in hypocrisy and
denying his fellow citizens the right to openly express and work for
political views inimical to his own.

Note also how Gerson uses guilt by association:
Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo
would not seem to have much in common with Lyndon LaRouche
other than being out of the political mainstream, for one reason or another.

Justin Raimondo critiques this Gerson column
in his (Raimondo’s) column of 2010-02-22.
Raimondo writes:
“Conspiracy theorist,” “zealot,” “deranged,” “truther” –
rinse, and repeat.
There is something oddly childish about
the taunting polemical style of the neocons:
what it boils down to is simple name-calling.
Rather than engage Paul’s actual views,
the idea is to drive him out of the public square
by means of pure epithets.


Our Unethical Financial Elite
by Kevin MacDonald
Occidental Observer Blog, 2010-02-24

“At this point there is a strong suggestion that
the financial elite behaved
much more like an organized crime syndicate
than as an elite with a sense of civic responsibility
or commitment to the long term viability of the society.”

Writing on Jewish involvement in the ongoing financial disaster
is not something I relish.
It’s not really my cup of tea because financial issues are not my area of expertise.
But I do think the issues should be discussed at TOO [The Occidental Observer].

When the meltdown began,
the Internet was full of angry comments blaming Jews,
much to the chagrin of the ADL.
This is because it is common knowledge that
Jews are vastly overrepresented among Wall Street executives.
In the 1990s, Benjamin Ginsberg noted that
50% of Wall Street executives were Jewish,
and it’s doubtless at least that high now.

As Kevin Phillips has pointed out, since the 1990s,
economic expansions have not benefited the middle class;
rather, they have benefited the financial elite.
Financial services and complex financial products
have assumed an ever larger percentage of the American economy,
while manufacturing has steadily declined
to the point where
their relative percentages of the American economy have reversed.

And the entire pyramid is erected on a house of cards.
Phillips writes:
My summation is that American financial capitalism,
at a pivotal period in the nation’s history,
cavalierly ventured a multiple gamble:
first, financializing a hitherto more diversified U.S. economy;
second, using massive quantities of debt and leverage to do so;
third, following up a stock market bubble
with an even larger housing and mortgage credit bubble;
roughly quadrupling U.S. credit-market debt between 1987 and 2007,
a scale of excess that historically unwinds;
and fifth,
consummating these events with a mixed fireworks of
dishonesty, incompetence and quantitative negligence.

In the public mind,
the firm most closely associated with Jewish financial power is Goldman Sachs.
Ever since the financial meltdown,
GS has been defending itself (e.g., here)
against an avalanche of charges focused not only on financial improprieties
but also on its ties to the government
(e.g., Matt Taibbi and a series of articles in the New York Times, e.g., here.)

A document placed into the Congressional Record by Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA),
described in an article on Bloomberg.com
strongly suggests corruption at the pinnacle of the financial profession.
GS underwrote $17.2 billion
of the $62.1 billion in the Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO’s)
that were insured by AIG —
more than any other firm.
Essentially, banks underwrote toxic securities and then bet against them.
An observer notes, “It sounds to me a little bit like
selling a car with faulty brakes
and then buying an insurance policy on the buyer of those cars.”

Even worse, according to the article, they knew the car had faulty brakes.
Managers of the CDO’s were substituting bundles of mortgages
that they knew full well were deeply troubled.
Unethical behavior is strongly implicated.
An observer notes that the banks should have to explain
how they managed to buy protection from AIG
primarily on securities that fell so sharply in value.

“If these banks had insight into the underlying loans
because they had relationships with banks, originators or servicers,
that’s at the least unethical.”

GS received $14 billion from the government when AIG was bailed out;
the New York Times also reported that
GS also received substantially more money from the AIG bailout
as a result of a prior agreement with Societe Generale,
a French bank that also received AIG bailout money from the US government.
Finally, the New York Fed promoted a cover-up
that prevented this information from coming out sooner.

The article makes clear that
there are still many details that remain unknown about these transactions.

David Brooks noted in the NYTimes,
Fifty years ago, the financial world was dominated by
well-connected blue bloods who drank at lunch
and played golf in the afternoons.
Now financial firms recruit from the cream of the Ivy League.
In 2007, 47 percent of Harvard grads went into finance or consulting.
Yet would we say that banks are performing more ably
than they were a half-century ago?

Quite clearly they are not.
The rise of a Jewish elite in the US
is problematic for a great many reasons —
most obviously because the Jewish elite remains motivated by
ethnic paranoia and
hostility toward Western cultural traditions, particularly Christianity.
the behavior of the financial elite in the case of the recent meltdown
is not something one would expect to see in a healthy society.
Quite a few of the details remain unknown,
so that it is difficult to get a clear image of how
individual Jews and Jewish networking
contributed to the meltdown.
(By all accounts [e.g., here],
Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Alan Greenspan
were instrumental in getting rid of regulations on trading derivatives
that would have prevented the meltdown.)
The indications that Goldman Sachs was at the center of the meltdown
strongly suggests that the Jewish role was important.
GS has not commented on Issa’s document or the Bloomberg article.

Nevertheless, at this point there is a strong suggestion that
the financial elite behaved much more like an organized crime syndicate
than as an elite with a sense of civic responsibility
or commitment to the long term viability of the society.

[cf. “The Looting of America”.]
Whereas organized crime stems from the lower levels of society,
this meltdown was accomplished at the very pinnacle of society —
the Ivy League grads mentioned by Brooks,
the wealthy financial firms and investment rating agencies,
the strong connections with government that facilitated the bailout
and failed to provide scrutiny while it was happening.
It seems highly doubtful that all this would have happened with the former elite —
the people whom Brooks disdainfully describes as
“well-connected blue bloods who drank at lunch
and played golf in the afternoons.”

Phillips concludes with
a quotation from British colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain,
made in 1904 to a gathering of his country’s financiers:
Granted that you are the clearinghouse of the world,
[but] are you entirely beyond anxiety
as to the permanence of your great position? . . .
Banking is not the creator of our prosperity but is the creation of it.
It is not the cause of our wealth,
but it is the consequence of our wealth.

That is the problem going ahead.
The US has sacrificed wealth-production in favor of finance,
and this has doubtless resulted in
huge financial rewards to a few people at the very top.
But it’s really hard to see
how most of us are going to benefit from this transformation in the long run.
A society without a healthy, civic-minded elite is doomed.

More On Our Unethical Financial Elite
by Kevin MacDonald
Occidental Observer Blog, 2010-02-28

Matt Taibbi is at it again, this time with “Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle.”
I can’t really comment on many of his substantive claims,
but there is an awful lot of smoke at this point
for one to suppose that there is no fire.
Note especially the point that the financial system
“assumes a certain minimal level of ethical behavior and civic instinct
over and above what is spelled out by the regulations”

(p. 7).

That’s the thing.
We have not only replaced a manufacturing economy with a financial economy,
as Kevin Phillips pointed out.
[He’s not the only one!]
The financial elite is completely corrupt —
with devastating consequences to the rest of the economy
and the long term prospects of growth.
As Taibbi notes,
the system depends on a “true believer” syndrome in which
people simply can’t believe they were conned.

We desperately want to trust our elites —
the people who come from the best schools
and have close ties to the government.
As Francis Fukuyama emphasizes,
trust in elites and the assumption of civic mindedness
are critical characteristics of individualist societies:
To this set of traits,
Francis Fukuyama also adds trust
as a critical virtue of individualist societies.
Trust is really a way of
emphasizing the importance of moral universalism
as a trait of individualist societies.
In collectivist, family-oriented societies,
trust ends at the border of the family and kinship group.
Social organization,
whether in political culture or in economic enterprise,
tends to be a family affair.
Morality is defined as what is good for the group—
typically the kinship group
(e.g., the notorious line, “Is it good for the Jews?”).
This lack of ability to develop a civil society
is the fundamental problem of societies in the Middle East and Africa,
where divisions into opposing religious and ultimately kinship groups
define the political landscape.
The movement of the West toward multiculturalism really means
the end of individualist Western culture.
(See here, p. 27)

We are entering an era where trust in political and cultural elites
is fast becoming a thing of the past.
Robert Putnam has shown that trust is lower in multi-ethnic societies.
This decline in public trust will be accelerated when people really grasp
the enormity of the disaster created by Wall Street
and its close connections to the government.
It’s really the end of a key feature of what made Western societies so successful.
As Taibbi points out, there’s no change on the horizon–
just a short pause for reloading.

Finally, I can’t help referring to today’s Doonesbury cartoon about
the development of an ethical sense among bankers.
The banker begins as a college grad who thinks
“I hope to do something of value well and be fairly paid.”
By middle age he is saying
“I demand to be paid obscenely well for destroying value.”
The cartoon illustrates the point that
lack of trust in financial elites is very widespread
and that they are reasonably portrayed as a predatory elite
rather than an elite that helps create value.

The only problem with the cartoon is that
it’s at least doubtful
that the people who make it to the top in this system
ever thought much about creating social value.
As Edmund Connelly’s recent blog recounts,
there is a very long history of
vastly disproportionate Jewish involvement in financial fraud.
And rather than a long history of civic responsibility,
there is a long history of
Jews thinking of themselves as outsiders in Western societies –
a hostile elite with a strong sense of historical grievance.
The long term prosperity of the society
is certainly not uppermost in their minds.

This is the relevant passage from page 7 of Taibbi’s article
[here to end of post]:

Con artists have a word for
the inability of their victims to accept that they’ve been scammed.
They call it the “True Believer Syndrome.”
That’s sort of where we are,
in a state of nagging disbelief about the real problem on Wall Street.
It isn’t so much that we have inadequate rules or incompetent regulators,
although both of these things are certainly true.
The real problem is that
it doesn’t matter what regulations are in place
if the people running the economy are rip-off artists.

The system assumes
a certain minimum level of ethical behavior and civic instinct
over and above what is spelled out by the regulations.
If those ethics are absent —
well, this thing isn’t going to work, no matter what we do.
Sure, mugging old ladies is against the law, but it’s also easy.
To prevent it, we depend, for the most part,
not on cops but on people making the conscious decision not to do it.

That’s why the biggest gift the bankers got in the bailout
was not fiscal but psychological.
“The most valuable part of the bailout,” says Rep. Sherman,
“was the implicit guarantee that they’re Too Big to Fail.”
Instead of liquidating and prosecuting the insolvent institutions
that took us all down with them in a giant Ponzi scheme,
we have showered them with money and guarantees
and all sorts of other enabling gestures.
[Is it just a coincidence that the same media organization, the Washington Post,
which argued so strenuously for the October 2008 bailout,
also argued equally strenuously for the U.S. going to war (needlessly) with Iraq in 2003,
argues consistently for fighting Islamic fighters rather than conciliating with them,
and seizes any pretext to avoid negotiations with the Palestinians?]

And what should really freak everyone out is the fact that
Wall Street immediately started skimming off its own rescue money.
If the bailouts validated anew the crooked psychology of the bubble,
the recent profit and bonus numbers show that the same psychology is back,
thriving, and looking for new disasters to create.
“It’s evidence,” says Rep. Kanjorski, “that they still don’t get it.”

More to the point, the fact that we haven’t done much of anything
to change the rules and behavior of Wall Street [cf.]
shows that we still don’t get it.
Instituting a bailout policy that stressed recapitalizing bad banks
was like the addict coming back to the con man to get his lost money back.
Ask yourself how well that ever works out.
And then get ready for the reload.

Washington power women enjoy a good hug

The New Elite Doesn't Officially Exist
by Kevin MacDonald
TOO Blog, 2010-05-19

In my last blog I suggested that
the new elite will not be as prone to surrendering its position
as the old one was.
One big difference is that
Jewish activist organizations go ballistic
over any mention that
Jews are a disproportionate portion of American elites–
truth is irrelevant.
Those who stray into this forbidden territory soon learn that
their lives have just gotten a lot more complicated.
The result is that
people behave like well-conditioned rats in a psychology experiment
and keep their mouths shut
no matter how obvious Jewish overrepresentation is.

[Wonder if anyone can relate to that? :-)]

The latest instance is the reaction to Pat Buchanan’s column
Are Liberals Anti-WASP?” where Buchanan wrote:
“If Kagan is confirmed,
Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population,
will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats.
Is this the Democrats’ idea of diversity?”

Jewish activists immediately went to work.
The National Jewish Democratic Council complained about
Buchanan’s “over-the-top, conspiratorial screeds.”
Abe Foxman was at his most colorful, calling Buchanan a
“recidivist anti-Semite who doesn’t miss an opportunity to show his fangs.”
[The score: Foxman, 1; truth, 0]
Foxman also gave his expert, unbiased opinion that
Kagan “is a highly qualified candidate for the judiciary,
an exemplary Solicitor General and a great legal mind.”

Liberals are fond of making arguments that
ethnic and religious diversity affect people’s judgments
and therefore we should do everything we can to promote diversity.
For example,
Sonia Sotomayor’s famous “Wise Latina” comment
was doubtless a huge asset for her among her liberal supporters.
But Foxman is implying that
Kagan’s Jewishness will have no influence at all on her judgments
anyone who says otherwise is a rabid anti-Semite.

Of course, this is ridiculous.
There are a whole lot of reasons to believe that Kagan’s Jewishness
will indeed affect her judgments.
The fact that
Elena Kagan is the product of New York’s Jewish leftist sub-culture
makes a huge difference in what we can expect from her —

particularly given her views on the First Amendment and executive power
that are in line with the mainstream Jewish community.
All the research shows that

Jewish attitudes are far different from the American majority
on a wide range of hot button issues,
particularly social issues such as
homosexuality, controls on sexual behavior, abortion,
Christianity in the public square, and gun control.

Particularly when there is such a thin paper trail
(contrary to Foxman,
there is no tangible evidence that Kagan has a “great legal mind”),
the most rational expectation is that
Kagan’s views reflect the views of the wider Jewish community.

Foxman is exercised because he is well aware that
there is a recurring pattern in history
in which Jews become highly overrepresented among elites.

This then feeds into anti-Jewish sentiment
from people who feel underrepresented,
especially if they think that
the elites are opposing their interests in other ways.
Patrick Cleburne was hinting as much when he noted that

“all three of Obama’s recent nominations
to be Federal Reserve Governors
were Jews,
bringing their representation on that body to 5 out of 7″

(his emphasis).
[Talk about a black-Jew alliance!]
The Abe Foxmans of the world see this coming and
hope to nip the process in the bud
by squelching any mention of Jewish overrepresentation.

Notice that Foxman could have responded by saying
“Yeah, three Jewish Supreme Court justices are probably a bit much,
given that Jews are already vastly overrepresented among all American elites–
media, academic, financial, etc.
Kagan should discreetly take herself out of the process.”

But instead, the reflex is to suppress such expressions.
The strategy is that people may well be thinking that
three Jews on the Supreme Court is too much,
but we will win if we can keep such thoughts out of the media.

Again, this is an old pattern.
I collected several examples in Chapter 2 of Separation and Its Discontents.
My favorite is from Joe Sobran, who lost his position with National Review
because of his views on
the influence of American Jews on U. S. policy toward Israel.
Appropriately, he mentions Pat Buchanan:
The full story of [Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential] campaign
is impossible to tell as long as it’s taboo to discuss Jewish interests
as freely as we discuss those of the Christian Right.
Talking about American politics without mentioning the Jews
is a little like talking about the NBA without mentioning the Chicago Bulls.
[Written during the reign of Michael Jordan.]
Not that the Jews are all-powerful, let alone all bad.
But they are successful, and therefore powerful enough:
and their power is unique in being off-limits to normal criticism
even when it’s highly visible.
They themselves behave as if their success were a guilty secret,
and they panic, and resort to accusations, as soon as the subject is raised.
Jewish control of the major media in the media age
makes the enforced silence both paradoxical and paralyzing.
Survival in public life requires that you know all about it,
but never refer to it.

A hypocritical etiquette forces us to pretend that
the Jews are powerless victims;
and if you don’t respect their victimhood,
they’ll destroy you.
It’s a phenomenal display not of wickedness, really,
but of fierce ethnocentrism,
a sort of furtive racial superpatriotism.

The result is that there is an ever increasing gap between people’s thoughts about Jewish influence and what they can say about it.
It reminds one of the USSR
where people were well aware that
there were a whole lot of things that were routinely left out of the news.

[That’s not the only thing in current America
that reminds one of the practices in the old USSR
that we fought so fiercely in the Cold War to keep from being imposed on America.
How about putting women to work
and children (all too often without a resident father)
in government-run nurseries (now called “day-care”)?]

I think there comes a point, however, where Jewish power is so obvious
that people will start discussing it, at first furtively and anonymously.
But the historical pattern is that eventually there is some push back.

“The American Jewish revolution is over”
by Kevin MacDonald, discussing a Philip Weiss column
TOO Blog, 2010-05-20

America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution
By Angelo M. Codevilla
American Spectator, 2010-07-16

Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego,
was formed by an educational system
that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance,
as well as tastes and habits.
These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil,
complete with secular sacred history,
sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints.
Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones
when referring to such matters --
speaking the "in" language --
serves as a badge of identity.
Regardless of what business or profession they are in,
their road up included government channels and government money
because, as government has grown,
its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct.
Many began their careers in government
and leveraged their way into the private sector.
Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner,
never held a non-government job.
Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway,
America’s ruling class
speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats.
It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.

The "nobody-could-have-known" excuse and Iraq
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2010-08-31

The predominant attribute of American elites
is a refusal to take responsibility for any failures.

The favored tactic for accomplishing this evasion is
the “nobody-could-have-known” excuse.

Each time something awful occurs --
the 9/11 attack, the Iraq War, the financial crisis,
the breaking of levees in New Orleans ... --
one is subjected to an endless stream of excuse-making from those responsible, insisting that there was no way they “could have known” what was to happen:
”I don’t think anybody could have predicted that
they would try to use an airplane as a missile,
a hijacked airplane as a missile,”
Condoleezza Rice infamously said on May 16, 2002,
despite multiple FBI and intelligence documents warning of exactly that.
[The 9/11 Report documents some FAA predictions of just that.
Richard Clarke worried about planes attacking the 2000 Atlanta Olympics.
Earlier in the Clinton administration,
someone crashed a light plane on the White House grounds.
In World War II there were the kamikazes.]

One finds identical excuses for each contemporary American disaster.
Robert Gibbs just invoked the same false excuse:
that “nobody” knew
the depth of the financial and unemployment crisis early last year.

[Greenwald goes on to quote NYT reporter John Burns
(the emphasis is Greenwald’s):]

[T]here were few, if any, who foresaw
the extent of the violence that would follow
or the political convulsion it would cause in Iraq,
America and elsewhere.

We could not know then ...

the scale of the toll the invasion would unleash:
the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians who would die;
the nearly 4,500 American soldiers who would be killed;
the nearly 35,000 soldiers who would return home wounded;
the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who would flee abroad as refugees;
the $750 billion in direct war costs that would burden the United States;
the bitterness that would seep into American politics;
the anti-Americanism that would become a commonplace
around the world.

Anyone who claims they didn’t realize that an attack on Iraq could spawn
mammoth civilian casualties, pervasive displacement,
endless occupation and intense anti-American hatred
is indicting themselves more powerfully
than it’s possible for anyone else to do.
And anyone who claims, as Burns did,
that they “could not know then” that these things might very well happen
is simply not telling the truth.
They could have known. And should have known.
They chose not to.

The tea party warns of a New Elite. They're right.
By Charles Murray
Washington Post Outlook, 2010-10-24


Why Washington Really Likes Itself
New York Times Review, 2011-08-28

IF it sometimes seems as if Washington exists in a totally different economic universe from the rest of us, rest assured: it does. According to Gallup, the District of Columbia is the most economically optimistic part of the country.

Every day, the polling organization surveys Americans of all income levels about whether they think current economic conditions are good, and whether the economy is getting better. The results of these two questions make up Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index.

The latest index report shows that the District of Columbia is far more confident in the economy than any state, by a long shot. In every state, most residents think the economy is getting worse; in the nation’s capital, fully 60 percent think the economy is getting better.

And yet the District of Columbia also has an unemployment rate above the nation’s — 10.8 percent, compared with 9.1 percent — and persistent ills like crime and poverty.

“If ever there were a place where people not only tend not to face economic facts, but it’s almost their purpose not to face economic facts, it’s Washington,” said P. J. O’Rourke, a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard and a political satirist.


Washington is richer, on the whole, than any American state: it has a per-capita income of $71,011, compared with the national average of $40,584, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. And the geysering income streams that support Washingtonians are reliable in good times and bad.

“There are a lot of occupations here that tend to be pretty high-paid that are kind of recession proof,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research organization in Washington, and a former economic adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.


According to the government’s housing price index, the worth of homes nationwide fell 2 percent last quarter. In Washington, they grew 2 percent. Zillow, a company that tracks real estate data, says three of every thousand homes in Washington are in foreclosure, less than a third the rate for the nation.


Roll on toward the cataract, Oh Ship of State!
by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2011-11-24

How can the American governing elite
be so consistently devoid of common sense
and so utterly lacking in any recognition of reality?
Most of these Grandees have gone to our best universities,
are well traveled,
and have access to enormous information banks,
both unclassified and classified.
And yet, in recent days, the following pearls of “wisdom”
have dropped from the mouths of prominent
political, military, and media personalities....


The knowledge class vs. the factory class
by Henry Allen
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2012-02-24

Why is there so little accountability in foreign policymaking?
By Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2012-05-14

Why is there so little accountability in contemporary U.S. policy-making,
and especially regarding foreign policy?
To be more specific:
He wanted to know why some of the same people who got us into the Iraq debacle,
mismanaged the Afghanistan war,
and now clamor for war with Iran
are still treated as respected experts, welcomed as pundits,
and recruited to advise Presidential campaigns?

I didn't have a particularly good answer for him,
but I thought about it more as I drove home.
I'm not sure why there seems to be
so little accountability in the American establishment these days
(though it is true that if you lose $2 billion dollars, it does affect your job security),
but here are a few thoughts....


Rich People Just Care Less
New York Times Opinator Blog, 2013-10-05

Turning a blind eye. Giving someone the cold shoulder. Looking down on people. Seeing right through them.

These metaphors for condescending or dismissive behavior are more than just descriptive. They suggest, to a surprisingly accurate extent, the social distance between those with greater power and those with less — a distance that goes beyond the realm of interpersonal interactions and may exacerbate the soaring inequality in the United States.

A growing body of recent research shows that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little such power. This tuning out has been observed, for instance, with strangers in a mere five-minute get-acquainted session, where the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker.

Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy.

Of course, in any society, social power is relative; any of us may be higher or lower in a given interaction, and the research shows the effect still prevails. Though the more powerful pay less attention to us than we do to them, in other situations we are relatively higher on the totem pole of status — and we, too, tend to pay less attention to those a rung or two down.

A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain. In 2008, social psychologists from the University of Amsterdam and the University of California, Berkeley, studied pairs of strangers telling one another about difficulties they had been through, like a divorce or death of a loved one. The researchers found that the differential expressed itself in the playing down of suffering. The more powerful were less compassionate toward the hardships described by the less powerful.

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at Berkeley, and Michael W. Kraus, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have done much of the research on social power and the attention deficit.

Mr. Keltner suggests that, in general, we focus the most on those we value most. While the wealthy can hire help, those with few material assets are more likely to value their social assets: like the neighbor who will keep an eye on your child from the time she gets home from school until the time you get home from work. The financial difference ends up creating a behavioral difference. Poor people are better attuned to interpersonal relations — with those of the same strata, and the more powerful — than the rich are, because they have to be.

While Mr. Keltner’s research finds that the poor, compared with the wealthy, have keenly attuned interpersonal attention in all directions, in general, those with the most power in society seem to pay particularly little attention to those with the least power. To be sure, high-status people do attend to those of equal rank — but not as well as those low of status do.

This has profound implications for societal behavior and government policy. Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action.

In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap. As political scientists have noted, redistricting and gerrymandering have led to the creation of more and more safe districts, in which elected officials don’t even have to encounter many voters from the rival party, much less empathize with them.

Social distance makes it all the easier to focus on small differences between groups and to put a negative spin on the ways of others and a positive spin on our own.

Freud called this “the narcissism of minor differences,” a theme repeated by Vamik D. Volkan, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, who was born in Cyprus to Turkish parents. Dr. Volkan remembers hearing as a small boy awful things about the hated Greek Cypriots — who, he points out, actually share many similarities with Turkish Cypriots. Yet for decades their modest-size island has been politically divided, which exacerbates the problem by letting prejudicial myths flourish.

In contrast, extensive interpersonal contact counteracts biases by letting people from hostile groups get to know one another as individuals and even friends. Thomas F. Pettigrew, a research professor of social psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, analyzed more than 500 studies on intergroup contact. Mr. Pettigrew, who was born in Virginia in 1931 and lived there until going to Harvard for graduate school, told me in an e-mail that it was the “the rampant racism in the Virginia of my childhood” that led him to study prejudice.

In his research, he found that even in areas where ethnic groups were in conflict and viewed one another through lenses of negative stereotypes, individuals who had close friends within the other group exhibited little or no such prejudice. They seemed to realize the many ways those demonized “others” were “just like me.” Whether such friendly social contact would overcome the divide between those with more and less social and economic power was not studied, but I suspect it would help.

Since the 1970s, the gap between the rich and everyone else has skyrocketed. Income inequality is at its highest level in a century. This widening gulf between the haves and have-less troubles me, but not for the obvious reasons. Apart from the financial inequities, I fear the expansion of an entirely different gap, caused by the inability to see oneself in a less advantaged person’s shoes. Reducing the economic gap may be impossible without also addressing the gap in empathy.

[An argument that ignores some crucial exceptions:
If you are in the groups which the mainstream Jewish community has chosen to give unabashed support to
(can they deny that with a straight face?),
namely, (feminist) women, blacks, homosexuals and "minorities" in general,
then you are practically automatically cast as a "victim",
and are to a certain extent immunized to any criticism, no matter how legitimate,
by dint of having practically any criticism derogated as being motivated by "hatred."
So there is empathy aplenty for some groups.]